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Michael John Smith

Roles Of Men And Women

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Another issue confronting the world religions today is that of men and women's roles. We in the west are absolutely horrified by the role Islam appears to allocate their woman. There are also great debates within Christianity firstly about women priests and recently about women bishops. Many schools of Buddhism have only recently given a place for women wishing live a more spiritual life and even then there are different rules for nuns than for monks. Meanwhile in society more and more women are doing better educationally than men and it is only a matter of time before they become more dominant in politics, business and academia than men. Hunting required the physical strength of men, but there's not much of that goes on anymore. They certainly have the time left over for child rearing, cooking and cleaning that were traditionally left to the womenfolk. I must say that personally I may be a little conservative in my views, as I still see the man as a protector of women and children and the woman in the more submissive role providing space for her man and more concerned with direct caring occupations such as child-rearing, health and education. I still believe a man should be like a chivalrous knight of old, or even an English gentleman, and a woman taking care of the modern day hearth and taking jobs requiring greater emotional IQ and instinctive compassion. I realise of course that equality is the keyword, but are men and women really the same? Should we treat them as being the same? If we are to live in this world, and even find enlightenment together, we certainly need the efforts and talents of both men and women. This is obvious. But how do we see the ying and yang of the human form and its meandering existence in samsara?

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Another issue confronting the world religions today is that of men and women's roles.


Surely, men and women shall be treated equally as regarding rights and opportunities on the job market. And they are equal from the Buddhist point of view regarding reaching Enlightenment ie. a consciousness has no gender and thus possess the potential to reach Enlightenment.


Yet, you are right, there are energies in men and women embodiment which are not the same. From the subtle point of view, it is very clear that differences exist between a woman and man body. In characters too. Men tend to me more active and moving a certain strength; and women more affective, thinking. But any characteristic which can be found in men can also be found in women (and vice-versa) to certain degree.


The father inside me disagree that women are in charge of children and men working to support financially the family. I think a man can as well take care of kids and a woman working; and they can ideally share the tasks and responsibilities in life.

In such matter, I also believe in equality ie. a child needs equally his mother and his father. I don't believe that a child needs more one or another. And I am saddened to see stupid archetypes maintained and passed from generation to generation, such as saying to a boy: “you are a boy, you shouldn't cry”, etc... Most of the time this is said by the mothers themselves, who will later complain that the boys are so tough and can't express their feeling!


I regret that since long time already men have given up education of children in some societies. A woman cannot give to a little boy the role model he needs to build his identity. Of course, little girl need also man role model, but in a less acute way; after all, they will follow the example of the mother, becoming mother later. But a little boy will not become a mother! So, he needs to see what he shall become. Thus the acute need of a father around.

Little boys who will be taken care only by women (specially women criticising - for good reasons or not - men), can't give the child a good picture of what he shall become. Consequently, troubles will soon or later appear, creating crisis of identity, confusion of roles, chaos in motive for life.


I think one of the reasons for Slovenia to have the highest rate of suicide in Europe might have something to do with the way children are over-cared by women, almost “eaten” by mothers. In most countries I know, young adults try their best to become quickly independent and are heavily encourage in that by their parents. But not in Slovenia. Houses are built on top of parents' house to keep the children close, to come to see them each day, to tell them what hey have to think, to cook for them, wash the clothes, eventually even to fill up all administrative papers for them, etc...

So many young adults can't define themselves outside of the family cocoon, can't function properly without “mummy” behind. Not that they want things to be like this, but they have been shape that way. Losing ground and capacity to lead their own life, independent and autonomous, some do end their life, as it appear to them less painful than learning to affirm their own ideas and will, over the one of their parents.


It's like the famous story of the cup of coffee from this famous Slovene writer (someone might write the story after). That story shows the level of guilt and dependence a mother can rise in her child's mind. A way to keep her offspring under control, because she has been told that she exists as a woman only through the role of being a mother. No children to control, no role anymore, no life, no reason to live. So, to survive, she “keeps” her children.


Where are the fathers you would say? Back in time, they were all send to war. When they came back, women took control of the family; and they were told that they are not good to take care of kids, that they should be tough, fight, work, bring back money and be the punishing authority in the house. Many decided to drink among peers of unfortune to forget. Which gave one more argument for the women against the men. In the middle, children were lacking some positive elements for their psychological balance, and were told all kind of stupid things... which they would eventually say later to their own kids, and so on.


Roles do exist, as genders do. Both genders can be perfectly equal in rights and responsibilities, yet each one expressing its own energy in a natural way, not one trying to be superior to the other. Men and women are complementary; both equally needed to make and to raise correctly a child.


There would be a lot to say on this topic...

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I was very interested Rinpoche in your observations on the roles of men and women in bringing up their children. I too have noticed this, you say “eating upâ€, although I have termed it actually “castrating†a child (particularly a boy child) by his mother in Slovenia. As I see it this is unfortunately present in other societies too (the mama mia, “mamoni†phenomenon in Italy springs immediately to mind, where a man often marries late in life and after the divorce goes back to his mummy, never really separating himself from her.). The situation is extremely difficult for single mothers although they appear sometimes to realise the problem before their married sisters and often actually smother their offspring less.

In my case my father did not have too much to do with his family and practically no role in bringing us children up - two boys and a girl. He had simply too many away-from-home activities and forbid his wife to go to work for many years. The consequences were horrific - my brother is 51 and never married, living close by our mother still and completely unable to socialise. My sister, who spent much of her younger years locked up in her bedroom, although married has no children and favours the “arranged†marriage over courting. She also has few friends and has a problem relating to other people. I on the other hand attended a religious school where most of our teachers were men (both lay and clergy) and somehow this compensated to a certain degree for the lack of a father role model. In our case my mother was not clinging but my father very traditional. I was determined at an early age not to copy my father and leave child raising to the mother and her mother. I took a very active, if not dominant, role in bringing up our son and have been rewarded beyond imagination. I think one solution to the problem in Slovenia would be to attract more men into the teaching profession (particularly at primary school level) and also to discuss family matters informally at high school as a subject.

But even more important, I feel, is your reminder to us that the consciousness has no gender and is not in itself subject to biology. However our minds (bodies) are formed, we are in essence completely the same.

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